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Twiplomacy and tools for social network research

A couple of years ago, while our students were engaged in a Middle East peace simulation, we discovered that Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted.  In fact, we discovered that at least three folks who called themselves Benjamin Netanyahu were tweeting.

Once we distinguished the real Bibi from the imposters, the students representing him were golden. They were on top of emerging speeches, photographs, statements, and press releases.

Though we could find no evidence of leader interaction, we knew we were onto something.

For a variety of solid reasons, world leaders are tweeters.  It may be a one-way street, but they do tweet.

Twiplomacy validates our discovery and a lot more.

The study, conducted by Burson-Marsteller, a global public relations and communications firm, is the first global study of world leaders on Twitter.

Using the Twitter analysis program Twitonomy (now in Beta), researchers identified 264 heads of state and government accounts in 125 countries and analyzed their profiles, tweet histories and connections with each other.

Among the findings:

The governments of almost two-thirds of the 193 UN member countries have a presence on Twitter: 45% of the 264 accounts analysed are personal accounts of heads of state and government, but just 30 world leaders tweet themselves and very few on a regular basis.

This study shows that while the social network invites direct interaction between users, few world leaders take advantage of this opportunity to develop connections. Almost half of world leader accounts analysed don’t follow any of their peers . . .

European Union President Herman van Rompuy (@euHvR) is the best connected world leader with 11 mutual follows. Australian Prime Minister @JuliaGillard is the second most connected world leader. Many governments use Twitter as an automated news feed from their website or Facebook page. As of 1 July 2012 the 264 accounts enjoyed a combined following of 51,990,656.

The full data set is available here and it may serve your global studies students nicely as a directory.  Readers can visually examine the data on the globe image or browse by region:

Nearly as interesting as the results is the accessible methodology used by the researchers. Their strategies may be useful to many of us in K12 and higher ed as we examine new strategies for examining our networked world.

  • Twitonomy used to examine over 30 variables including: tweets, following, followers, listed, the date the user joined Twitter, ratio followers/following, ratio listed/100 followers, tweets/day, retweets, % of retweets, user @mentions, average number of @mentions/tweet, @replies, % of @replies, links, average number of links/tweet, hashtags, average number of hashtags/tweet, tweets retweeted, proportion of tweets retweeted by others, total number of tweets retweeted, average number of tweets retweeted, users most retweeted, users most replied to, users most mentioned, hashtags most used, platforms most tweeted from.
  • MyFirstTweet to find the first tweet of each leaderTwitonomy profile
  • Doesfollow to analyze relations between world leaders.
  • Wordle to create tag clouds of each feeds most frequently used terms
  • to visually represent the data on maps
Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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